Christmas Tree Memories: Why I’ll Always Pick A Live Tree

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According to the latest statistics, 2015 has so far been a big year for the purchase of live Christmas trees. This is interesting data given the fact that more and more people are turning to artificial trees for their holiday decor. Yes, I’ve been tempted, but I still prefer the smell and touch of a live tree. To me, there is nothing like the deep earthy aroma of a fresh Douglas fir to liven up my holidays. Continue reading

The Ins and Outs of the Extraordinary Bay of Fundy


There are high tides and then there are really high tides. In the everyday experience of most people, the average difference between high and low tide hovers around three feet. But, there’s a tide that’s so big it’s in the Guinness Book of World Records. Measuring in at an astounding 55 feet, it is the natural phenomenon known as Canada’s Bay of Fundy. Continue reading

The Tao of Taos: Rediscovering America the Beautiful


Framed by the majestic Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos, New Mexico is a place made of dreams; there’s sprawling desert, unspoiled alpine wilderness and a sun-baked adobe town, steeped in American history. The town is home to three cultures; the Tiwa-speaking Indians, and the descendants of the Spanish and Anglo settlers who came later, all of whose unique customs and traditions have blended together. Imagine a place where the Old West is still very much alive, and that would be Taos. It’s a miracle the town isn’t overridden by tourists. Continue reading

Going Underground at the Washington National Cathedral

Washington National Cathedral/Photo: herebydesign/net

When summer temperatures start to soar, it’s a blessing to find a peaceful place to unwind. That’s why I like to head to the Washington National Cathedral. I bypass the main sanctuary, though, and take the stairs down underground. There, I find cool refuge in the beautiful chapels of the lower level. Continue reading

Three Laid-Back Days on Canada’s Prince Edward Island

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When it comes to pastoral paradise, it’s hard to beat eastern Canada’s Prince Edward Island. With a population of little over 145,000, the tiny island offers miles of coastline with spectacular red sandstone cliffs, shifting dunes and enough unspoiled beaches to please even the pickiest of tourists. Continue reading

The Fringe Benefits of Wearing the Same Outfit Every Day

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Donna Karan:

Many years ago when I was working in Paris, the head of the firm’s accounting team came to the office each Monday dressed to kill. I can still remember a couple of her trademark outfits: skinny black leather pants with a stretch lace top and a bodycon pencil skirt with a billowy silk blouse (black bra underneath.) A pair of sky-high black heels accompanied each look. It was an exciting show, yes. But what really got my attention was that once she (let’s call her Claude) chose her outfit, she purposely wore it every day, all week long. Continue reading

How to Add Swing to Your Relationships


I’m just finishing up the book, Boys In the Boat, which is a fascinating read about nine college boys who rowed to glory at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book talks a lot about crew and boats, but also about the nature of teamwork and how sometimes-dissimilar individuals can come together as one and accomplish something they have never done before.

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Boost Your Recall with A Trip through the Memory Palace


There’s a great book by John Crowley called “Little Big” that unfolds in multiple dimensions, leading the reader on an ever expanding journey of the mind. Much of the journey is made possible by an ancient memorization technique called the memory palace. The idea of a palace that lived in the mind so intrigued me that I began experimenting with creating one of my own. Now, when I need to remember things, I just stroll through my memory palace and recover what I’m trying to recall. Continue reading

Online Flashcards Can Make You Smarter About Almost Anything

Simpson language flashcard by

Cartoon alien language flashcard by

For many of us, the thought of flashcards brings back memories of rigid, 3 x 5 paper cards, imprinted with multiplication tables or foreign words. Jump forward to today, though, and flashcards have become as tech savvy as we are. Now, in a complete role reversal, it is we who determine what information goes on the cards. And new online programs are making all of this possible.

It’s a big world out there and the new cards are exploring just about every subject imaginable. Online flashcards are helping learners of all ages boost their knowledge on such diverse topics as dog training, bar tending and morse code. They can even help improve a person’s ability to remember names and faces.

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Digital flashcards at

How digital flashcards work

One of the main benefits of digital flashcards is that they allow you to tailor your quizzing to your own learning style. Cerego, a popular online learning platform, is one such program. Cerego syncs across iPhone, iPad, and the Web using software that is ‘100% personalized to your mind.’

Here’s how it works. You create your card decks and Cerego’s learning engine keeps track of your speed and accuracy. Along the way, it also gives you visual feedback on how well you’re doing. You can tailor how often you are tested, the level of difficulty and even have periodic reminders sent to your iOS device. It all depends on how and what you want to learn.

Next time you check your device you could be learning something new! Studies confirm that repeated exposure to information at spaced intervals is one of the best ways to absorb new materials.

The different learning methods

The traditional, passive way of receiving information is undergoing a revolution. The new programs are founded on a new kind of learning. The ‘spacing effect’ for instance hypothesizes that memory can be enhanced when you study something over a long period of time, rather than trying to memorize it all at once. 

Mind map of French presidents uploaded to Anki flashcard;

Mind map of French presidents uploaded to Anki flashcard;

Since a memory gets stronger each time you recall it, the new programs allow you to design your flashcards to space learning over days, weeks and even months, according to your personal preferences. They’ll even let you control the number of repetitions and the delay between them. To boost memory, multimedia digital flashcards also offer many tools previously not possible on traditional paper flashcards such as images, videos, audio, and even scientific mark-up.

Anki is a a flexible, media-rich flashcard program that lets you customize your cards’ layout and timing, including how many new cards to show each day and how long to wait between repetitions. It can accommodate huge decks of multimedia cards across multiple devices that can be separated into different parts, depending on how you want to study.  You can use Anki to help remember almost everything, including materials for exams, obscure geography or faces or long poems. You can even use the cards to practice music.

If you’re not up for creating your own cards right off the bat, AnkiMobile is a free platform that lets you download decks of cards other people have shared through iTunes.

Quizlet (a favorite among high school and college students) is another free, online source that allows you to create your own flashcards, track your progress and compete with your friends. Started in 2005 by a 15-year old who created it for a high-school French class, Quizlet now employs high school and college students to write most of its code. A great audio feature allows you to record your own voice to practice words or hear native-speaker text-to-audio speech in 18 languages.  Quizlet uses these specialized audio techniques to assist learning on everything from jazz to frog calls.

Quizlet flashcards

Quizlet flashcards


Flashcards are finding new life in businesses too, where they are helping to train sales and marketing teams and teach new technologies and industry vocabulary. They’re also being used to help employees pass licensing exams, improve decision-making skills and deliver more effective presentations. Memrise uses a combination of flashcards and other memory-boosting techniques to teach such diverse professionally-oriented subject matter as iPhones’ specs, basic data base terms and project management.  They’re also a well-known source for foreign language study, with 500+ languages to choose from.

Memrise Professional and career flashcards

Sample professional and career flashcards by memrise

With so many subjects to choose from, there’s really no reason not to give these friendly and intelligent programs a try. Digital flashcards are a fun and easy way to learn about pretty much everything.



Edible Insects May Hold The Key To Sustainable Food Sourcing

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In an unusual turn of culinary events, edible insects are shaping one of today’s top trends in sustainable food sourcing. Crickets, grasshoppers, ants, even earthworms, are being dry roasted, fried, sautéed and turned into flour. This type of cuisine might not be for everyone, but if you can overcome the initial aversion, it just might be worth the effort. Continue reading